Iowa State enters a world without Haliburton against the Sooners

Rasir Bolton and Tyrese Haliburton get set on defense against Kansas State on Feb. 8.

Matt Belinson

The beginning of a world without Tyrese Haliburton on the court will officially begin Wednesday night for the Iowa State men’s basketball team.

The Cyclones will travel to Norman, Oklahoma, for a rematch with the Oklahoma Sooners — a team that gave the Cyclones their first conference win of the season on Jan. 11 in a 81-68 win. But for all intents and purposes, the win on Jan. 11 will be thrown out the window when it comes to how the Cyclones will prepare for the Sooners this time around.

The drastic change in preparation comes after Haliburton, Iowa State’s star point guard, fractured his wrist in a win over Kansas State on Saturday. The severity of the injury led Iowa State to announce Monday that Haliburton would be forced to sit out the remainder of the season, leaving Iowa State in a dire situation to make odds with.

The Cyclones have played without Haliburton before, losing to Florida A&M 70-68 in Hilton Coliseum on Dec. 31. Haliburton’s wrist kept him out of that contest as well, leaving Iowa State searching all game for answers on offense. That game has been dismissed by Head Coach Steve Prohm as a fluke, saying without Haliburton on the floor, Iowa State just isn’t the same team.

Prohm’s assessment is warranted, with Haliburton providing over 15 points per game and a Big 12 leading 6.5 assists before his season-ending injury. Without that high level of production on the floor, Iowa State will not only have to find a replacement against the Sooners, but will officially begin to see what life on the court will have to be without him long term.

Despite losing without him the first time around, Haliburton said having multiple days to prepare both mentally and physically will put his teammates in a much better position than his first absence.

“I think the biggest difference is, in the Florida A&M game, nobody knew I wasn’t playing until that morning, so it’s hard to adjust to not having me on the court a couple hours before,” Haliburton said. “It should be a lot different when you know for days that you have to move up.”

Haliburton said that no one on the team should feel like they will have to recreate what he does on the floor, but rather, each player should know by now what their role is and fill into it — leading to quicker team success.

Even though Haliburton said that no one on the Cyclone needs to become “Tyrese 2.0,” Prohm said that he knows there are plenty of Cyclones who have shown the ability to control the offense in similar ways to Haliburton. The biggest example of those players is fellow sophomore Rasir Bolton.

Bolton has been Iowa State’s No. 2 option all year, with Prohm letting him run point on occasion, attempting to be the facilitator and willing playmaker that Haliburton was. 

In the first matchup against the Sooners, it was Bolton who provided the biggest scoring lift. Bolton led the way with his 23 points on a very efficient 10-17 shooting, with eight trips to the foul line. 

The challenge of stepping in for Haliburton won’t just fall on Bolton’s shoulders, but the sophomore from Petersburg, Virginia, said he has seen that the Cyclones understand each other and everyone on the team will be expected to step up and contribute in order to grab some more wins.

“Everybody steps up, you know it was a big loss, guys will step up, learn different things, still gotta go out there and compete and try and win,” Bolton said.

As he now takes over the main point guard role, Bolton said he wants to play with high energy, making sure his teammates are involved and are communicating. Along with creating opportunities for his teammates, Bolton said he will need to take care of the ball better than he has as of late.

With 17 turnovers over his last four games, Bolton said that as the new point guard, keeping the ball in his hands and making disciplined plays on offense will be crucial, especially with Haliburton’s 15.2 points per game now sitting on the bench.

Prohm said he has full confidence in Bolton’s ability to take over at the point and said players like Prentiss Nixon, Tre Jackson and Terrence Lewis will have to continue to step up to fill in for Haliburton’s presence.

Losing Haliburton out of the lineup will no doubt change how Iowa State plays and runs its offense against the Sooners, but Prohm said he hopes everyone on the team has been preparing to step up even before Haliburton went down, making this new development only an increase in the work ethic of the team.

Prohm said lineup changes will of course be in affect for the rest of the season but his main focus will first be beating the Sooners and worrying about how the team will rebound from losing Haliburton second.

“The next challenge is Oklahoma and that’s our focus and see if we can put a winning record in the back half of conference play and see how many wins that is and go from there,” Prohm said. 

Iowa State will tipoff against Oklahoma at 8 p.m. Wednesday in Norman, Oklahoma, on ESPN2.